Moto X (2014) and Moto G (2014) initial impressions

The new Moto's. Image: Ars Technica
If there was one word I would use to describe Motorola, it would be "different". The Motorola we know today is not the same Motorola we knew before the acquisition by Google. In the sea of Android OEMs all competing to be top dog, Motorola do things differently from others. And Motorola's approach in making mobile devices too, is different from the others. Last year, I like many other Android enthusiasts were amazed at this different approach that Motorola took, both with their Moto X and Moto G. There was a lot that I felt other OEMs could learn from Motorola, and I even considered Motorola as my best OEM of 2013. The Moto X introduced a renewed focus on the software and user experience, while other OEMs focused more on numbers on the specs sheet. And the Moto G was probably the first decently priced mid-range Android phone which was actually good, which is why it became Motorola's best selling smartphone of all time. With the Moto X being a favourite among the tech crowd (winning Engadget's Smartphone of the Year Award as an example) and the Moto G proving a commercial success in the mid-range sector, everyone was really looking forward to the second generation of both these products. Here are some initial thoughts from me.

Moto X 

Last year, Motorola set out to show the industry that you don't need the most high-end specs to have an enjoyable flagship. And they succeeded. Most reviews of the Moto X were highly favourable, with the only major gripe being camera performance. Since they have the software experience nailed, this year Motorola decided to focus on the hardware, and give the Moto X specs that were more "flagship" than "mid-range". The new Moto X comes with a larger 5.2" 1080p display. The full size of the phone is much larger than last year's Moto X, but similar in size with 2014's other flagships smartphones. Motorola also decided to just stick a conventional quad-core SD801 chip in the phone, compared to their custom X8 Mobile Computing System from last year, which had a dual-core Snapdragon S4 Pro. The speaker has also been moved to the front, and resides in the bottom bezel of the phone (the top speaker is just the earpiece). Moto Maker is also back, giving users the ability to choose from hundreds of different colour and material combinations, with the backs now coming in polycarbonate, wood, and leather. The major concerns with the hardware however, are the camera and battery life. Both received modest bumps from last year, the camera gaining three more megapixels to give the new Moto X a 13MP shooter, and the battery is 100 mAh larger than last year, at 2300 mAh. Reviews however weren't that favourable in these two areas. The camera is hit and miss, and while the battery life will get you through the day, it's weird that Motorola's battery is much smaller compared to other flagships, especially when it was Motorola who managed to fit a 3300 mAh battery in the 4.3" RAZR MAXX back in 2012.

The new Moto X (second from left) is much larger than the previous model,
but closer in size to its competitors.

The software is just as awesome as last year, but with several refinements. My favourite has to be the ability to change the hotword command to awaken the Moto X. Last year, users were stuck with the cumbersome "OK Google Now" command. This year, users can customise the hotword, so you can say things like "OK Moto", "Hello Jarvis", or just simply "Moto X" and the phone will awaken, waiting for your next command. The lockscreen has also been tweaked to allow users to tap and view all current notifications, instead of just the most recent. And Motorola even added some new hand waving gestures, similar to what can be found on Samsung devices. A little gimmicky, but they're there.

The last thing I want to touch on is the design of the phone. The basic shape of the phone is similar to last year's model, which is good. But I'm not a big fan of the ring flash and the new dimple that everyone loved from the 1st gen Moto X. Together they just look tacky. The dimple in particular isn't as subtle and elegant as last year, but is now loud and screaming to be noticed.

Not a fan of the new ring flash and dimple. Image: Pocketnow

Moto G

While the Moto X improved on areas that needed improving while keeping the same great software experience, the new Moto G isn't really that different compared to the previous model. It still has a 720p display, which is larger than last year's model (5" vs 4.5"). It has the same SD400 SoC and 1GB RAM. The battery is also the same size, 2070 mAh. The only significant changes other than the size of the display is the inclusion of a microSD card slot, higher res camera's (8MP + 2MP vs 5MP + 1.3MP) and dual front facing speakers. Most importantly though, the new Moto G still comes in at just $179, similar to last year. So for the same price you do get a slightly better package than previously. Current owners might not need to upgrade, especially if they already own the LTE model which also has expandable storage, but everyone else would be getting a good deal by buying the new Moto G.

Slightly better specs, same great price. Image: Android Central

The new Moto X might still have some problems, namely camera performance and battery life, but it's still a very good device. Flagship specs with stock Android boosted by Motorola's apps, which will receive frequent updates since they are on the Play Store, and guaranteed quick Android updates are what makes this phone so great. iVerge The Verge wouldn't rate it higher than the iPhone 6 Plus if it wasn't great, would they? And the Moto G albeit being a small upgrade over the previous model, is still quite possibly the best mid-range Android phone you can buy, and the best value for money you can get. Motorola have recreated their brand last year, and this year it's all about strengthening that brand. The Moto X will definitely be a contender for smartphone of the year, and the Moto G is highly likely to continue being Motorola's best selling smartphone of all time.

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